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31 Jan, 2024 17:38

Russia to toughen law on anti-military ‘fakes’

MPs have approved a new bill envisaging asset forfeitures for those endangering national security
Russia to toughen law on anti-military ‘fakes’

People committing crimes against Russia’s national security could potentially face the confiscation of their assets under new legislation passed by the country’s lower house, the State Duma, on Wednesday. The proposed amendments to the national criminal code would introduce the penalty for spreading “fakes” and disinformation about the Russian Armed Forces.

The legislation is yet to receive approval from the Federation Council – the upper house of the parliament. It must then be signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

Russia passed a bill protecting its military against slander and disinformation in 2022, soon after the start of the conflict with Ukraine. The law initially only covered the regular armed forces, but was further expanded in March 2023 to protect volunteer fighters as well.

The punishment for such offenses can range from fines of 100,000 rubles ($1,114) to 1.5 million rubles ($16,717) or up to seven years in prison and a ban on holding public office. Repeat offenders, whose actions cause serious harm, can be jailed for up to 15 years.

Under the proposed changes, such offenders could also see their money or other assets seized if they were obtained through committing this specific crime or were used either as criminal instruments or as a means of financing criminal activities.

Apart from spreading “fakes” about the Russian military, the amendments also introduce confiscation of assets for such crimes as “public calls for actions damaging state security,” sabotage, and justification of Nazism.

The bill was unanimously approved in its third and final reading by all 337 deputies present at the Duma session.

The State Duma chair, Vyacheslav Volodin, called the bill a “law against villains.” It would allow the punishment of “traitors,” who “throw mud” at their own nation while living abroad, he said in a Telegram post.

The confiscation envisaged by the bill would only apply to assets directly linked to criminal activities, Irina Pankina, the first deputy head of the State Duma’s legislation commission, told journalists. She denied that the new measures had anything in common with Soviet-era confiscations.

Such a seizure would not be a punishment but a criminal law measure, she insisted, adding that it is largely aimed at preventing further criminal activity or confiscating illegal gains obtained from it.

Another Russian MP, Aleksey Chepa, said that the change would hardly affect ordinary people as it primarily targets various public speakers like bloggers gaining profits from the information they are spreading.

“This is aimed at… those who would spread any information for profit. Those who do not care what they do or how they do it… as long as it brings them money,” he said.

Currently, the Russian Criminal Code provides for asset forfeiture in dozens of cases ranging from murder and terrorist activities to illegal alcohol trade.